Saturday, October 4, 2008

Road Trip

Yesterday we went to my Uncle Hale's funeral. (Uncle Hale, my Mom's dad's brother, was a brilliant physicist whose research led to 3 Nobel Prizes, who developed radar during World War II, and who helped inspire my Dad to go to Harvard. He lived across the street from us and was the closest thing to a Grandpa I ever had, since my mom's dad was divorced from Nana and we only met him a couple times. Uncle Hale wore bow ties. He adored my Aunt Olga, an opera singer, and unlike the stereotypical "science nerd," he loved music and the arts. Uncle Hale introduced his prize student [my dad] to his beloved niece [my mom] at a dinner party devised for just that purpose, and Dad eventually proposed at (where else?) a physics social. So Uncle Hale always took credit for that match, and for us four Nelson kids, too. He always wanted me to play the piano for him, and when I did he'd close his eyes and say, "Beautiful, beautiful." He gave wonderful, intriguing Home Teaching messages about exponential growth and our progression to become like God---about principles of Symmetry in the universe and in the gospel---about the natural world and its immediate pertinance to the teachings of Christ.)

(This started out not being a post about Uncle Hale, but since I'm thinking of him, let me also mention that I recall him once telling me the following story: After Uncle Hale got his doctorate, he went back to Logan eager to finally be able to talk with his own Dad---a prominent physicist, "the father of soil physics," extremely famous in his field---about physics. But to his dismay, he found that one day they would work through a set of equations together, and the next day they'd have to start all over from scratch---Uncle Hale's father grasping for, and slipping away from, concepts that should have come easily: the father could no longer keep up with the son. His father's mind was already failing; soon he would succumb to Alzheimer's. This was one of life's great ironies. Uncle Hale spent his early years unable to truly share the world of physics with his father because he didn't know enough. He worked through years of school so he would know enough. But once he finally did, it was too late for them to share it together.

The sad sequel to this story is that Uncle Hale, too, developed Alzheimer's, and we had to watch his brilliant mind fail as his father's had. At the end, you couldn't help but be grateful to see him released from the prison his body had become. And all weekend I have been imagining the two of them now, father and son, finally and joyfully engaging in the theoretical discussions they never got the chance to have on earth.)

Anyway, all I intended to say in this post is that as we got in the car to go to the funeral, Sebby said, "Okay, are we going to heaven now?"

My sweet boy.

But don't you kind of wish you could? Just load up the whole family and go? Not that I don't like it here; I do, but . . . there are also a whole lot of things down here that I wouldn't mind just . . . bypassing. And a few people who are up there, that I'd like to see again. Laugh with. Play the piano with. Listen in on a few of those Physics conversations.

Well. Someday, right?

2 comments:

  1. I am so sorry about your uncle. My grandma also died from Alzheimer's--it is heartbreaking. You're in my thoughts.

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  2. Good post, Marilyn. Very thoughtful and well-put. Man, your life growing up and my life growing up seem like polar opposites. Yet, amazingly, there are common threads in from our youth that bind us together. Anyway, congrats to Uncle Hale on finally getting this crazy life over with! I'm looking forward to the same for myself someday. Meanwhile, I'll just be bloggin.

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